A game of two halves that never quite excels
I just about have enough time to crank out this review before my little break in the South of England so apologies if I seem a little direct and lacking in explanation. Everest is directed by Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns (2013)) and tells the story of the now infamous 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest when a number of climbers lost their lives after getting caught up in a powerful storm. The film chooses to focus on Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, owner of Adventure Consultants, who pioneered guided climbing on the mountain. There is also quite a bit of screen time devoted to two members of his expedition, Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin). This is a result of the apparent decision to focus on their stories in trying to personalise the disaster.
There were quite a few things I didn’t like about the first part of Everest. My biggest issue was the broad-brush approach to introducing characters. Beck is from Texas so he’s got to be loud and brash, Doug is the every-man so he’s got to be a little shy and reserved … and so it goes on. There are some heavy handed attempts at critiquing the lack of experience of some of the climbers on the mountain and images of climbers coughing up blood as we hear Hall’s description of the challenges of climbing Everest. I assume its been put into the film to emphasise the dangers involved to movie goers with no prior knowledge of high mountain climbing but we should assume some level of intelligence and besides there are subtler ways of doing things.
Once the brown stuff hits the rather large wind machine the action and tension kicks in and the final minutes of the film are packed with emotion. This is down to excellent (albeit) brief appearances by Emily Watson as the base camp manager Helen and Keira Knightly as Hall’s wife Jan. If you’ve seen the trailer and the radio message sequence you’ll have an idea of what I’ve talking about. It’s really sad stuff and the one point of the movie when I think it starts to deliver on its potential. There are some beautiful shots that bring to life the wonder of Nepal and certain scenes that might make purchasing the IMAX ticket worthwhile.
I have read an account of the tragedy in a book called Into Thin Air that was published in 1997 by a gentleman called Jon Krakauer who was one of the surviving members of the doomed expedition. Based on what I remember the film stays broadly true to history although the book had more room to talk about what went right and wrong and the aftermath of the expedition i.e. the blame game. I just wish the whole film could have been as good as the final 20 minutes because then it would have been a masterpiece and a favourite to appear on my top ten list. Sadly it won’t although it is perfectly watchable. My rating 3/5.